Dr. John D. Nelson: 50th Anniversary of SEAGS

John_Nelson_AIT_TrusteeMessage from Dr. John D. Nelson
Former Executive Secretary of the Southeast Asia Society of Soil Engineering

On this 50th Anniversary of the Southeast Asian Geotechnical Society (SEAGS), I wish to extend my heartiest greetings and well wishes to the SEAGS.  I arrived at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in July, 1968.  In 1967 and prior to my arrival, Dr. Za-Chieh Moh had organized a very successful Southeast Asian Conference on Soil Engineering which heralded the beginning of the Southeast Asian Society of Soil Engineering (SEASSE), later to be renamed the Southeast Asian Geotechnical Society.  The SEASSE had been recognized as a member of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering (ISSMFE).  It enjoyed the same status as a national society, and represented Geotechnical Engineers in the Southeast Asian region from countries that did not have their own national society representation in the ISSMFE.  Dr. Robert Mackey had just left AIT prior to my arrival, and Dr. Moh appointed me as the Executive Secretary of the SEASSE.  Those were exciting times and between that time and when I left AIT in 1973 we accomplished many things.  Notably the Journal of the Southeast Asian Society was formed with Dr. Edward W. Brand was the editor.

The SEASSE gained international recognition, and brought attention to the many geotechnical engineering accomplishments in the region.    In 1970 the Second SEASSE conference was held in Singapore.  Prof. Ralph Peck was the distinguished speaker at the conference.  In 1971, we hosted the Asian Regional Conference in Bangkok.  Prof. Kevin Nash, the Executive Secretary of the ISSMFE, was a distinguished guest of the conference.  The conference venue was the Dusit Thani hotel, which at that time, was the tallest building in Bangkok.  It no longer enjoys that status. Immediately after that, I represented the SEASSE at the official meeting of the ISSMFE Executive Committee, which was held in conjunction with the Australasian regional conference in Australia.  Prof. Peck was the President of the ISSMFE and presided over that meeting. In 1972, the Third SEASSE conference was held in Hong Kong.  Distinguished speakers were Prof. Victor de Mello and Prof. T. William Lambe.  During the conference, we experienced a typhoon and an earthquake. That remains the most unique entertainment that I have seen at a conference.  Then in 1973, Prof. Chin Fung Kee and I represented the SEASSE at the ISSMFE Executive Committee meeting in Moscow.  That was an experience in itself.

Through my involvement in the many activities of SEASSE, I met many of the top geotechnical engineers in the world.  I will always remember the good times that Dr. Moh, Dr. Brand, and I had in our activities in the SEASSE.  As Dr. Moh has noted, the geotechnical community in Southeast Asia has matured, and many national societies have been “spun off” of the SEASSE.  This shows the important role that it has played over the past 50 years and is a tribute to the foresight shown by Dr. Moh in causing it to be formed.  I am very honored and proud to have been a part of the SEASSE/SEAGS in its formation.  I wish the Society all the best for the future.